The Final Four is taking place in Indianapolis as scheduled, and, no doubt, the NCAA is quite proud of the inroads it made in the past week to ensure that same-sex couples will still be able to get their wedding cakes from religious-right bakers. After all, it's every couple's dream.
That's not one of the specific rights the founding fathers addressed when fashioning the U.S. Constitution, but it's in there somewhere amid the philosophy of equality, tolerance, and the separation of church and state.
As it likes to do in cases where it can't be criticized, the NCAA took a strong stance against the recently passed "religious freedom law" in Indiana. The law - one of nearly two dozen on the books in the United States - isn't designed to do much aside from allow conservative lawmakers to convince their conservative constituencies that while the sky might be raining gay couples, they can still pretend there are still a few rays of good, old-fashioned American sunshine out there.
NCAA president Mark Emmert put on his serious face and talked about the possible consequences for the state, one of 37 in which same-sex marriage is legal, if the religious freedom law were not amended to, among other things, prevent Indiana bakeries from placing a sign in the window: "We ain't putting no two little men on top of our cakes. Ain't fitting."
It was the same serious face Emmert used when he took his strong stand against pedophilia when handing down the harsh, and later repealed, sanctions against Penn State in 2012. It was also the same sanctimonious grab for higher moral ground, and you would have thought Emmert might have learned his lesson. Apparently not.
There is nothing courageous about either stand. Those are the right ones to take, but giving speeches doesn't require courage. Following through and acting on one's alleged ideals is what matters.
Emmert chided Penn State for the "culture" that made it possible for a predator to operate on its campus because it was better than exposing the football program to potential harm. But Emmert was unable or unwilling to propose anything on a national scale that might help curb the excesses inherent with the sport at the collegiate level. If revenue were capped, if sanctions for violations had real teeth, if the term "scholar-athlete" could be transformed into something other than a punch line, then maybe the culture could change over time. But, no. It was all Penn State, and Emmert took his free swing.
Coming out against the Indiana law is similarly hypocritical if the NCAA doesn't follow through and do something that isn't as easy. There are some options.
There are still 13 states in which same-sex couples can't get married. Emmert, in this recent case, has been picking on one of the states in which it is legal. If he really wants to use his organization as an instrument for change on this issue, rather than make vague threats, then he will stand behind that same microphone and say the NCAA won't be holding events in those 13 states. He can start with the 2016 Final Four, which is scheduled for Houston.
Already, the NCAA doesn't award events in advance to South Carolina because the Confederate flag is still flown at the statehouse. That ban has been in effect since 2002, and the South Carolina women's basketball team got two NCAA home games this year only because that's how the seeding played out. The games were held six blocks from the statehouse.
That's a nice easy stand for the NCAA, but it makes you wonder whether the organization would have the same courage if there were still a flag controversy in Georgia, which has that lovely 70,000-seat domed stadium sitting there in Atlanta that the NCAA likes to use. It's easy to pick on South Carolina, however, and there's nothing the NCAA likes better than looking good when there are no consequences.
So, let's see how committed the NCAA is to the concept that people in the United States of America should be allowed to marry whomever they choose, and that religious rights are meant to be protected by our system but not at the expense of the rights of others.
The Final Four is in Texas next year. If the NCAA is doing more than just posturing, that will be changed.
It won't, of course. As always, the NCAA just wants to have its cake and eat it, too.